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Chronic Wasting Disease found in VA

Hunters that venture out of our readership area to the north and west in our state might want to be aware that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was confirmed in Frederick County. I personally hunt up there with my father and immediate family and we do take deer from the area. I am aware that others in our county and surrounding counties also enjoy going to the mountains to hunt deer with a rifle since we are not permitted to do so in King George, Westmoreland or Caroline.
A few weeks ago VDGIF received confirmation that a doe that was harvested by a hunter in Frederick County tested positive for CWD. The hunter was hunting less than a mile from West Virginia when he took the doe, which was 2 years old. This is the first deer that has tested positive in Virginia for the disease. West Virginia has tested nearly 10,000 thus far with 62 positive results. Virginia has tested half that number with only the one doe coming up positive for the disease. It can be expected that there will be more deer testing positive in the future.

“This was not unexpected,” stated VDGIF Executive Director Bob Duncan. “Our wildlife professionals have been preparing for this for some time. The surveillance efforts have been critical and we appreciate the hunters, check station operators, and other cooperators who have supported our efforts.”
The disease most often affects deer or elk but can be found in moose too. Unfortunately the disease kills animals very slowly. It affects the brain and nervous system. CWD has not been known to pass to humans or other animals to include livestock.
Sick looking deer should not only be avoided but reported to the nearest VDGIF office immediately. Note the location and anything else you can to help the professionals find the deer. At this time they do not recommend shooting the deer.
Hunters have begun using gloves to field dress animals in the past few years and that is a good practice. Boning out meat is another good idea. Cook your venison well.
I would be remiss not to point out that CWD has been present in the United States for quite some time. Elk and deer have been infected with the disease in Colorado and many other western and mid western states and you never read a story or hear of one where a hunter became seriously ill with a strange disease because they ate meat from a harvested deer or elk. Given the numbers of animals that are possibly infected and the fact that humans are not contracting the disease there is no reason for anxiety. Like anything else it is prudent to take precautions like the ones stated above.
Hunters that enjoy hunting near West Virginia should allow VDGIF to sample their deer. Do remember that the test VDGIF does is not a food safety test (the test does not pick up low levels of the causative agent), but it is helpful to know if your deer was infected. I label all the deer I butcher with the date, where the deer was taken and the cut of meat. If any of my meat comes up positive from any that I harvest in the surveillance area then I can remove the meat from the freezer and dispose of it. The test results usually come back in eight weeks. The tests does not always pick up the disease at low levels. Check out their Web site for more details. Visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/cwd.

Mark Fike

 

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